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Gourmet Bazaar at Santa Monica Place Opened Yesterday

The LA Times reported that the remodeled Santa Monica Place mall just opened up a 15,000 sq. ft. area that is supposedly based on the San Francisco Ferry Building. This new space will feature "cured meats and cheeses, freshly baked breads and other goods, seasonal produce and things like organic ice cream, a casual trattoria, florist and artisinal chocolatier (plus even a cooking school)."

I'll come back with a link to the story in the LAT's in a few minutes.

Story here: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi...

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    1. It was actually organized chaos at first, but I spent all day there and had fun people-watching and food sampling. The vendor of Cast Iron Gourmet had incredible bacon products, and I came home with some Pork Nuts (homemade corn nuts fried in bacon fat) and a delicious bacon pimiento cheese spread. Can't wait until she opens her stall for good. The Curious Palate served me a wonderful lunch, the staff and management could not have been more helpful and worked their asses off through the lunch crowd. Just hope they can sustain a buzz, manager told me they were considering doing a Sunday brunch and full service dinner in a few weeks. But for now, you order and pay at a cashier. The miso marinated short rib wrap was delicious, and served with beautiful fresh mixed green salad, and a sumptious Rioja. So psyched this is near my house and I can become a regular at a spot like this, not lost in a crowd of a place that seats 300.

      -----
      The Curious Palate
      12034 Venice Boulevard, Mar Vista, CA

      6 Replies
      1. re: Phurstluv

        We've enjoyed the short rib wrap at their Mar Vista location. I didn't realize until Thursday that there's a handful of Westside places that are in this new location as well. I guess this technically makes them chains for now - should we start hating them? ;) Thanks for giving us a first view...

        1. re: bulavinaka

          Just returned and had a lovely experience. The line for The Curious Palate was very long so we got some sandwiches from Rockenwagner. Chicken salad was quite peppery and delicious The turkey and swiss served on pretzel bun was also good. Wish we had time to stay for some of the souffles. They looked so yummy. Nice running into Piero Sevlaggio, whom we have known forever. He's look-alike son is working with him at Primi. Bought some just-made gnocchi to have with dinner tonight.
          All in all, a fine addition to the neighborhood.

          -----
          The Curious Palate
          12034 Venice Boulevard, Mar Vista, CA

          1. re: maudies5

            Hi maudies5! Once again we were in the same spot at the same time!! I agree, the food at Rockenwagner looked wonderful, wish I had stayed for a souffle too, next time I guess! I was having such a good time at TCP that I stayed there until it was time to pick up my kids from school! They were so nice I scored a free beer and coconut cupcake from them, delicious! And my neighbor shared her fries with me, and their ketchup is amazing! I haven't been to their MV store, so I was pleasantly surprised! Will def be back. Is Primi Mercato Selvaggio's? Didn't realize that was his, will def be getting fresh pasta there instead of Bay cities, at least there's always parking!!

            Hi Bula! Yea, I guess we have to boycott them now, shoot!!! You go first!! LOL!

            1. re: Phurstluv

              Primi Mercato, the Salumeria across the way and the pasta operation are all Piero Selvaggio's. Gosh, we have known Piero forever and he still continues to be so charming. The gnocchi(stuffed with ricotta) I bought from him had literally just been hand made. I even discussed with Piero how I was planning on having it as a side dish along with the roasting chicken I bought from Farmer's mkt today. I told him I was thinking of using the fresh English peas I bought today. Piero suggested just butter, sage and the peas for the gnocchi. Chicken just went into the oven.

              1. re: Phurstluv

                The TCP's homemade ketchup is the best in the city. I loved it so much, we bought a jar. It's like the yummiest tomato chutney...

                --Dommy!

                1. re: Dommy

                  I agree, Dommy. And now thrilled to know it is available by the jar. I will ask for some when I return this week!

        2. Strong heads up! I can't tell from the reports. Are the merchants mostly permanent merchants? Any space or plans for a farmers market set up like the Ferry Building on Saturdays?

          22 Replies
          1. re: Porthos

            No, they appear to be permanent. There are a couple or three kiosk type merchants in the middle of the Market, but every thing else is along the perimeter, and has their own walk-ins, etc. And with the booming FM on Saturdays & Wednesdays just two blocks north, does not make sense to have another FM-type marketplace in this space. Rents are pretty high, I'm sure.

            1. re: Phurstluv

              Would be nice to centralize everything. Guess 2 blocks isn't horrible!

              All this place needs is a Wine Merchant...

                1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                  All this place needs is a produce vendor, a fresh herb vendor, a fish monger, and a butcher. Or a few of each. Then it'll be a market. I'm not sure what I would call it now. A half-baked market? Whoever put this together should've done a little more work. Or a lot more work. It's a little insulting to the current vendors who were under the impression this location would be an actual market. They had to put a lot of money, time and effort into location that hasn't fully delivered on its premise. Theyve' had plenty of time to get the kinks worked out. But there are still kinks there. Someone should have bent over backwards to get the fishmonger, produce, etc. If I were one of the vendors - I'd be really pissed. It should be a one stop shopping event, you know, like a supermarket? As it is, you'd have to park in that truly awful and confusing parking facility, hike up there, buy some stuff, go back to your car, put it in there, then go to the Santa Monica Farmer's market (open two days a week), by your produce, back to the car AND THEN GO TO ANOTHER MARKET to get the stuff neither location had.

                  All that said, I hope they get it together - there's a great idea in there.

                  1. re: foodiemahoodie

                    According to the story in the LA Times they will be featuring "seasonal produce" in the market. Is that not the case?

                    1. re: foodiemahoodie

                      I'm hoping to visit this place some time this week. I totally concur with your vision of what this place should offer/be. When one visits places like the Ferry Building or even Ox Bow - heck even a tiny place like Cowgirl Creamery in Pointe Reyes Station - it's pretty much one-stop shopping. Serious eaters can find an all-encompassing shopping or dining experience (and then some) for a meal/meals from apps to dessert and everything that fortifies a great eating experience.

                      I'm willing to give it some time. I'm guessing that most places mentioned above started out imperfect and evolved with time. I was in Santa Cruz last summer and enjoyed a similar in-process collection of places at a location called Swift Street Courtyard. While its roots are different, it has evolved over a relatively short time from warehouse/industrial space that a strong bakery/cafe moved into, to a growing cluster of drinking/dining/specialty shops. When I visited this place, the wine offerings were very strong (I think six wine tasting venues and counting), a local beer brewer with a great reputation, the bakery/cafe that was and still is the nucleus of all of this, a big handful of specialty shops and winemaker Bonny Doon's Cellar Door Cafe. I remember commenting to my self that with all of the spectacular offerings here already, a few more shops would round out the collection. With great bread and other offerings from Kelly's Bakery along with excellent wine and beer stops, a perfect picnic would be realized if a good cheese and charcuterie place along with a produce market or at least small section or stall much like what is offered at Cowgirl Creamery. Sure enough, there already was a butcher/charcuterie shop in the process of building into a vacant space. And I think it's only a matter of time that the other "missing" components will arrive. There's truly great produce and other agricultural products in and around Santa Cruz - this is turning into one of the premier places to truly showcase them.

                      I think a couple of issues that are of significant difference between a place like Swift Street and the Santa Monica Place's new market venue may ultimately determine how things pan out. A business's overhead and how the collection of vendors is determined seem to me to be the major issues, and I can't see a produce vendor or fishmonger moving into a place like this and actually float without having a huge mark up on such perishable products. If these types of places can supplement their income with value-added products (market produce-based salads, jarred/canned specialties, oyster bars, etc. - grab a bottle of wine from Venokado or visa versa), they may be able to pull it off. Also, Swift Street's evolution is somewhat natural - market-driven. Santa Monica Place's approach seems more command economy-driven, dictated by the mall's management. "We think this mix will work so let's put it out there and hope we were right..." I can't tell you how they did actually determined who went into this space, but many are rehashes of familiar vendors and eateries located in or close to the Westside. While many have satisfactory to great reputations, I personally was sort of meh about this. Given the current group of vendors and eateries, as a Westside Angeleno, I can gain a similar experience with similar effort. Yeah, I'd have to travel more, but I can rationalize this by the fact that I won't have to deal with the traffic leading up to and around this mall, along with the parking issues. I think with some true creativity by the mall powers, regular input by consumers (both vocally and monetarily), this might have a chance.

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        A workable "tweener" would be the equivalent of a big, ready-made deli section, a direction most markets have gone to. That's not really a market, more like a picnic-ready place. But it's not that either. Could be.

                        I'm not sure if a fishmonger can survive there. Certainly one that functioned like a real fishmonger - get a limited amount of fresh fish in that morning, put it on ice and sell out. A fishmonger that has only fresh fish and actually runs out? That'd be worth the trip, the parking alone because there's noting like that on the west side. Santa Monica Seafood? Kinda sucks.

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          I dropped by this morning to check out the space and here's my initial thoughts:

                          Ingress/egress is easy. The entrance to this market is very close to the 4th level of the parking structure off of Broadway. With that said, I can see parking itself being a challenge. I didn't find any parking spots until I reached midway between the 3rd and 4th levels on a Wednesday morning barely past opening time. lizziee's suggestion of using the valet service is something to keep in mind when the mall area is in full swing.

                          The space itself is open and inviting. A breezeway runs down the center of the market with stalls on either side of it and some kiosks incorporated into the breezeway area. For those who have been to the Ferry Building in San Francisco, please don't expect something of that scale. In its current state, the market is maybe one-sixth in size at best. But various types of seating are sprinkled throughout the space (even some temporary seating in the fronts of the vacant units), as well as ample seating in the various eateries. Even the wine merchant has a small balcony with seating for its guests. Though I don't know the legalities of uncorking a bottle in any of the market's public spaces or on the wine shop's balcony, grabbing a salumi and cheese platter from Norcino Salumeria and enjoying it with a nice bottle might be reality. And Piero Salvaggio was behind the counter creating some simple but attractive samplers.

                          I didn't have a meal here, but I did grab some wine, salumi and bread from Venokado, Norcino and Rockenwagner. Relative to other wine shops around the Westside, the wine selection is on the smallish side at Venokado but many of the wines are selected from smaller wineries or are organic/biodynamic, and the staff is very helpful. They also have a refrigerated section as well as a handful of sparklers and beers. They also offer non-wine accessories seemingly geared toward women (soaps, lotions, kiddy stuff) - kind of unusual from my perspective - give me more wine or beer selection - that's what I'm here for.

                          From my perspective, I think Norcino is a great addition to this market. The wisdom and tastes of Piero Salvaggio can be appreciated by more people in this setting. The cases of quality salumi and cheeses are very impressive and considering how unique some are, the prices seemed more than reasonable to me. They also offer a simple menu mostly of panini.

                          I think many are familiar with Rockenwagner. This location is simple, stylish and has a nice corner nook area for seating. I've always been fond of their baked goods and I think they have some of the better breads in LA, so this new venue just adds to their accessibility.

                          As already mentioned by some posters, I can't help but reiterate that having an actual working wine bar and other standards like a fish monger, butcher and produce stall or kiosk would do wonders for a place like this. These missing elements help create a synergism that one can feel at more established places of this type. I think also without a well-rounded collection of food vendors, the cooking school will suffer, yet can be used to showcase the various vendors' goods in creating great dishes or desserts, wine pairings, etc. Having two ice cream vendors in a place this size seems one too many - I'd swap one out (probably Beachy Cream despite their eye candy servers - ah-ooh-gah!) for one of those mentioned missing elements or even a dedicated specialty bar of some sort (exquisite desserts, oyster, etc). Some of the counters and kiosks seem too large given the scale of their respective businesses. Beachy Cream and Cookie Guru have excessive counter/kiosk space relative to their offerings. Primi Al Mercato's counter runs what seems to be about a fifth of the market's length. I can see this amount of space being of use at peak periods, but otherwise after that dies off, then what? I'd be more in favor of having more stalls or counters in a given space that are smaller in size at the benefit of creating more variety and (IMHO) the energy and buzz created by this kind of setting.

                          There's no doubt that the kind of prospective consumer sought after is the upper 50% in terms of income. I just hope this collection of vendors can draw as well s keep the interest of such consumers. Good bones, but I think this place will need to go through a few iterations before they get the mix right. And if the mall mgmt doesn't get the right mix, I have to wonder if it will have legs.

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            A good idea to quickly access the Market is to just go straight to the roof parking. There's usually plenty of parking places and the entrance puts you right across from the Market entrance. Only a few steps down.

                      2. re: goodhealthgourmet

                        Not quite Wine Merchant. Wine Merchant in the Ferry Building has a bar area with seats and several table tops where you can bring in cheese, bread, and other loot from the farmers market to go with a very nice selection of their wines by the glass. They make it interesting by offering a different sparkling flight, flight of whites, and flight of reds for a very reasonable price each week. They also allow you to bring any bottle of wine from the attached wine store and will open it for you for a small corkage fee.

                        In response to foodiemahoodie, I'm guessing the butcher and fish monger with their very expensive and very perishable goods are going to wait to see how this concept hashes out before committing so much money to a stall in this market. If the concept takes off, I'm sure the butcher and fish monger and mushroom guy will follow. It's promising to be sure.

                        1. re: Porthos

                          Whoever put this "market" together - should have bent over backwards to make sure they got the butcher, fishmonger, producer vendor, etc. (a "protein" vendor) - even if it was free rent for six months. Or a year. Otherwise - what is it? An almost tweener market? Manbearpig market! Half food court, half market, half empty unrealized promise.

                          1. re: Porthos

                            I agree about the wine merchant being more than just a wine merchant. It's so much more inviting not only to the shop itself, but the anticipation of the whole experience at such places knowing that one can experience the products in this fashion. I think also that the wine acts like a lubricant on folks' wallets...

                            1. re: bulavinaka

                              You do not have to go into the parking garage to go to the market. There is valet parking by Nordstrom's - 3 hours free parking.

                              -----
                              Nordstrom
                              3333 Bristol Street, Costa Mesa, CA

                              1. re: lizziee

                                As soon as the wine merchant has what Porthos describes, then the 3-hour free parking will be part of my M.O. :)

                                1. re: bulavinaka

                                  It's only "valet parking," Bula - not "designated valet driving!" ;-D>

                                  1. re: Servorg

                                    I'd make a beeline straight for the wine (and hopefully some great food with it), take a sip or two or three, stroll and hopefully add my two cents to our recovering economy, and by the end of three hours, be able to drive no worse than I already do sans buzz.

                                2. re: lizziee

                                  Also valet parking on 4th. 3 hours free with validation. Which is not provided by The Market or food court vendors, but the bigger restaurants.

                                  1. re: foodiemahoodie

                                    The Curious Palate and Primi both offer validation now.

                                    -----
                                    The Curious Palate
                                    12034 Venice Boulevard, Mar Vista, CA

                                3. re: bulavinaka

                                  I think also that the wine acts like a lubricant on folks' wallets...
                                  =====================
                                  Yep. A veritable WD40 of wallets.

                                  A place like the Wine Merchant adds to the value of the entire market and increases the spending across the board at every stall. It's what drives me to purchase way too much cheese at Cowgirl and buy extra fruits at the vendors in addition to multiple sandwiches and cured meats so I have enough food to go with all that wine. That's definitely a vendor that deserves free 6 month's rent.

                                4. re: Porthos

                                  @Porthos, ah, i thought you meant "a wine merchant" in general - i didn't catch the initial caps indicating your reference to a *specific* entity :)

                                  1. re: goodhealthgourmet

                                    No problem. It is good to know that there will be a wine merchant on premises though. Thanks for the heads up!

                        2. so glad to hear the positive reports! i had the opening marked on my calendar but i just couldn't bring myself to brave the opening-day chaos...props to those of you who did :)

                          initial reports last summer said Kings Road Coffee was opening a shop in the Market - i guess they were displaced by Groundwork...?

                          1. I had a fantastic Bratwurst Sandwich on pretzel bread, w/slaw and a very spicy mustard at Rockenwagner's new place. The whole place seemed odd - not really a market or a food-court - but some interesting dining options.